Taming The Email Tiger
Email … friend or foe? On balance, I would have to say, “friend”. But there are times … like when I download my mail in the morning … all 200+ items of it, only to find a good 40% or so is nothing but junk, that I have to acknowledge that there is a “dark side”, as well.
In this article, I want to give you some tried and true tips for taming the email tiger from a raging, voracious, demanding beast … into a sleek, efficient, purring engine of productivity.
So, Tiger Taming 101, here we go.
Tip #1 – Familiarize yourself with your email software, in particular the filter function.
Your email software has many inbuilt features designed to make your email processing (both receipt and delivery) more efficient. Learn what features come with your email program and USE THEM!
Tip #2 – Use Filters
Full-featured email programs such as Eudora, Pegasus and others allow you to apply filters to your incoming mail. These ‘autopilots’ can move, delete, copy or forward a message depending on the criteria you set to apply to the To:, From:, and Subject: fields in the email’s header.
If you have set up appropriate folders (see Tip #3), your filters can be set to automatically forward incoming mail into the appropriate folder, leaving only messages that don’t fall into a pre-set folder in your inbox. This makes it relatively easy to sort through what’s left, and get rid of the junk in a minimum of time and with a minimum of effort.
Tip #3 – Use folders to organize and prioritize incoming mail.
You could set up folders for Newsletters, Urgent Items, Priority Items, To Do This Week (or individual Monday through Friday folders), Current, Pending, Development etc.. Decide on a time of the day or a day of the week to review and action the contents of each folder.
Set up your filters to redirect your incoming mail to the appropriate folder as much as you can. For example, use filters to direct mail with the subject: “A Home-Based Business Online” (and the names of all other newsletters you subscribe to) to your Newsletters folder.
Tip #4 – Check your email only once or twice a day.
Don’t fall into the trap of checking your mail every time you see that little icon flashing “New Mail”.
If possible, disable the icon or the “You’ve Got Mail” pop-up message all together. All it does is break your concentration and implant the subconscious imperative that checking your email is a priority. It is, but only at the predesignated time of day you have nominated.
Responding to every email as it comes in only fragments your attention and concentration and undermines your productivity.
Tip #5 – Make a decision about each piece of mail and act on it AT ONCE.
When reviewing your incoming mail, the first decision you need to make is whether to open it at all. Some messages you can safely delete without bothering to open. These typically have subject lines such as “EASY $$$$ FOR YOU”, “How I earn $12,000 a month while I sleep”, and “I saw your add [sic] in the Classifieds”. They are, of course, SPAM and can safely be deleted without reading them.
The rest you will need to open. Be very wary of opening attachments to emails unless you know the person it’s come from — this is a good way of catching a virus.
Decide NOW what action you need to take in response to the emails you open. Some can go straight into the trash bin, others you can answer immediately if the response will only require 1-2 minutes. Others will require more time and should be filed in the appropriate folder you have created for this purpose (see Tip #3 above).
Whatever decision you make, make sure you only make it once. Don’t let a read item continue to sit in your inbox. Before long you will forget what it is, only having to waste time reading it again. Think of your inbox as a waystation – a place for your email to sit only until your next review session.
Tip #6 – Use your email program’s address book to manage email addresses.
Most address books that come with email software allow you to enter the contact’s name, real address, email address, phone numbers and other basic information. By selecting a contact from your email address book, the email address will be automatically inserted into the “To:” field. This can also be applied to groups of contacts.
Tip #7 – Reduce email volume by getting your email address off unwanted lists (where you can) and by choosing the digest mode for the lists you are subscribed to.
Tip #8 – Reduce unwanted mail by practicing basic anti-spam tactics such as:
-> using the filters that come with your email program (see Tip #2)to automatically delete messages with certain addresses or subject line keywords;
-> thinking carefully before submitting your email address to classified ad and FFA sites. You will be bombarded with spam; and
-> using an “unlisted” email address to be used only when communicating with those you want to be able to access you. You treat this address as you would an unlisted telephone number. In other words, be selective about who you give it to!
Email may well be recorded in history as one of the most significant technological advances of the twentieth century. There is no doubt that used efficiently, it can make an immeasurably positive impact on our personal productivity. Be sure to control this tool though, and not the other way around. By implementing the above tips consistently, you can be sure to catch that tiger by the tail. Don’t let go though, whatever you do!
Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online … practical ideas, resources and strategies for your home-based or online business.